Role of Mob Mentality Behind the Barbaric Dokmoka Incident

Dr Dimpy Mahanta
(Dr Dimpy Mahanta is the Founding Head of the Postgraduate Department of Psychology, Cotton University. She has been a student counsellor and motivational speaker, and has been serving as a board member (psychologist) in the selection process of country’s leading public sector undertakings. Currently she is the President of North East Indian Association of Applied Psychology. She can be reached at mahantadimpy@gmail.com)

The Dokmoka incident in Karbi Anglong has left us all shaken from within. It displayed a mix of modern technology and primitive barbarity to the extent that we all are feeling ashamed to term ourselves as ‘humans’ in the truest sense of the term.

With a bit of expertise and strong interest in social psychology, I decided to view this gruesome incident of mob-lynching of two of our youths, Nilotpal and Abhijeet, from a deeper angle of consciousness. What happens when we as a mob or a crowd act or behave? Once we understand the psychological aspect behind mob-lynching, we would be able to understand the fact how dangerous and irrational a mob can become, to the extent that they could engage in such barbaric heinous crimes. This phenomenon was displayed not just in the recent unfortunate Dokmoka incident in Karbi Anglong but is spread worldwide as has been observed over the years in developed nations also, be it the Cologne attacks in Germany in 2016 or mob lynching in London in 2017. So, spreading hatred and ill-feelings towards a particular community is no solution. The more we understand why and how mob lynching operates, we shall be more aware not to engage in such mob behaviour or involve ourselves in spreading hatred towards any particular community.

The incredible effect that a group can have on an individual’s behaviour cannot ever be underestimated. A person may find himself in a totally different psychological state than he usually resides. That forms the basis of mob psychology. In fact, psychologists have discovered that in a group setting, the behaviour displayed by the group tends to be more extreme than the typical behaviour of its individual members. This particular phenomenon is most clearly seen in the behaviour of mobs. A mob is one of the most overlooked yet most influential forces in changing people’s behaviour. As social psychologists, we attribute this effect to a process of deindividuation which implies loosening of normal constraints of behaviour when people are in a crowd, thus leading to an increase in impulsive and deviant acts.

Groups also tend to encourage a sense of anonymity among its members, thus leading to a display of mob psychology and other antisocial behaviours. The fear of being singled out and evaluated among the mob or the crowd disappears. Besides this, the group also encourages a diffusion of responsibility for the actions taken. It is not the individual per se who will be held accountable; rather the entire group will be held responsible for any antisocial act. Therefore, this leads to an overall weakening of social influences and self-consciousness. Social norms disappear; rather the mob creates its own set of norms which every individual member of the mob adheres to. Inevitably, the result is antisocial behaviour on the part of the individual and the group. This phenomenon of mob psychology is observed in all societies around the world.

So the rule of thumb is never to underestimate the power of the situation. You might be surprised what you would do under certain circumstances while being a part of the mob!
My sole purpose of writing this piece on mob psychology is to urge the common public not to spread malice and hatred against a particular community because of this barbaric act committed by a mob after being instigated by the perpetrators of the crime. The worst kind of punishments must be given to the culprits so that nobody dares to instigate people to form a group to serve their own selfish desires and motives. We civilians must understand the civilized way of dealing with every kind of uncivilized and barbaric act in this crisis and volatile situation.

Together we all must join hands and condemn this heinous act without showing any ill-feelings against any particular community. We must understand that our Assam is a multicultural, multiethnic, pluralistic society. We all must stay united under all circumstances. We must stand against the wrong act without pointing fingers at each other. There is a need to show sobriety and prudence in dealing with such incidents.
Lastly, what will be the difference between the perpetrators of hatred and crime and us civilians if we also perpetrate and encourage enmity against our fellow brothers and sisters of Karbi Anglong? As the news surfaced, we saw uproar of hatred towards the people belonging to that particular region at large. The anger is still somewhere there in the hearts of our people.

But let us all remember that mob lynching can never be stopped by counter-mob lynching. Let us all pray that the two young hearts rest in eternal peace and such heinous incidents are never repeated. At the same time, we need to repose our faith in the judicial system of our country. Let us not engage in mob behaviour to solve this problem! It will set Assam ablaze and divide the State into innumerable segments. Let us honour the composite culture of our land and live together amicably with mutual trust and understanding.